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MP elections which way?

A statewide survey of voters' mood carried out by HT shows no clear winner. Hence, selection of candidates would be more crucial.

india Updated: Oct 21, 2003 18:58 IST

What has the 2003 assembly election in store for the main contenders for power in Madhya Pradesh? The answer to this question nagging politicians and many others is expected to remain elusive for some more time as the voters mind is yet to be made up.

A survey of voters mood carried out by Hindustan Times correspondents from across the state shows no clear winner, leave aside a wave in favour of any party.

In such a situation, the selection of candidates has assumed added importance. The general feeling is that whichever party sets aside interests of individual leaders and gives mandate to deserving candidates will manage to tilt the balance in its favour. This is more relevant in the case of the Congress. It can try to reduce the play of the anti-incumbency factor by denying tickets to some ministers and MLAs who have failed to come up to the expectations of their electorate.

The survey shows that though the people are unhappy with the performance of the Congress government, particularly on the power and road fronts, yet the Bharatiya Janata Party, the principal opposition party, appears to have not been able to cash in on the anti-incumbency feeling that runs across the state.

The party, however, has a fair chance of coming back to power after a break of ten years provided it puts its act together in the next few days.

From among the numerous populist and election-focused announcements that the Digvijay Singh government has made in the recent past, what seems to have caught the voters fancy, both in the urban and rural areas, is the waiver of power bills. But even on this count, doubts persist in peoples mind whether they are actually going to benefit from the announcement or it is yet another election gimmick.

A sure winner for the Congress could be an electoral understanding with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which has a sizeable presence in some parts of the state, particularly in the Chambal and Bundelkhand regions.

What seems to have damaged the prospects of the BJP and has not allowed it to emerge as a clear winner is infighting in the party. While on one hand the projection of Uma Bharti as BJPs chief ministerial candidate has geared up the hardcore Hindutva workers, particularly the RSS cadres, it has proved to be a damper for the supporters of other BJP leaders such as Kailash Joshi, Vikram Verma, Sumitra Mahajan, and Babulal Gaur.

Besides the tussle for representation on party committees and in the selection of candidates, the infighting was evident even during Uma Bharti's Sankalp Yatra. While Vikram Verma and Sumitra Mahajan kept away from it, Kailash Joshi and Babulal Gaur did not lend the support it deserved.

Nevertheless, the yatra has helped the party in more than one way. Firstly, it removed the confusion about the party's chief ministerial candidate and introduced Uma Bharti to the electorate in almost every part of the state. Secondly, it gave confidence to Bharti to take on Digvijay Singh who is the most influential politician in the state today.

The yatra also helped the BJP bring focus on development as the most important election issue. What it requires to do is to iron out differences in the party rank and file, and instil cohesion and sense of purpose before it is too late.